Low Impact Life

have less, do more, be more

Category: Frugality (Page 1 of 3)

How I became a frugal weirdo

Reading a post on the Frugalwoods blog about being a frugal weirdo and loving it made me reflect on my own path and how I ended up where I am today: a frugal weirdo and proud! (spoiler: it’s very linked with being an environmentalist)

Let’s start off with the statement I’ve never been one of the “cool” girls in school. As a child I spent most my weekends on a boat in the archipelago exploring islands, playing games with my family, reading books and writing my own stories (still a dream of mine to actually finish one). I am pretty nerdy when it comes to books (don’t get me started on Harry Potter!) and have always had a strong passion for nature and animals. Being outside wether it was sailing, hiking, swimming, canoeing, skiing, skating or just playing outdoors was a natural part of my childhood. When I was little I first wanted to be a wildlife photographer and then a vet (until I realized that I have a problem dealing with blood and injured animals…). When the vet dream died I got into environmental science and the huge challenges that we as humans face today (read more here). I wrote my 9th grade project about the problem with too much nitrogen in the Baltic sea that is disturbing the ecological balance.

one cool sailor right there 😉

From there on my passion for the environment grew although I made few changes to my life at this stage (I was 16 and trying to fit in and going shopping after school was a common activity with friends). After high school I worked at a kindergarten for 6 months to save money to study one semester abroad in California. This period was marked by me being extremely frugal and having the mindset that “either I buy this now or I do something cool in California” which made me put down whatever I was going to buy. Worth mentioning is that although I have been quite a shopaholic I have always had the frugal bug. I think it has to do with me not having an extra job when studying until I was 22 which lead to me having to save and make my monthly allowance stretch very far (I must add that I had the privilege of help from my parents although I never took it for granted that I would get money from them).

Hiking in Yosemite National Park

When I was living in California I studied environmental science among other courses, all natural science focused, so my interest continued and I spent a lot of time hiking, skiing and being outdoors (the California climate makes that a bit easier than in Sweden). I watched the documentary Food, Inc and after that I became a vegetarian mostly beacuse of the horrendous situation of the industrialized production of meat.

Having to explain again and again why you don’t eat meat and bring your own food to dinners with people having to deal with depressing discussions with me about the future of the earth was definately the start to me inhabiting the weirdo box. Before this stage I had kept a lot to myself but getting more and more worried about the state of the earth I couldn’t just keep going on like it wasn’t happening.

I studied environmental science at Lund University and though my class all understood the no eating meat (I think half the class were vegetarians) and the environmental problems were old news to them everyone else I hung out with definately though that me and my friends from my class were slightly weird. I kept being frugal during my university years (most people are!) and worked with babysitting children and walking dogs for some extra money. I didn’t take out the full loan that is offered to Swedish students through the government but I have some debt to pay back. I am glad that I did take my loan so I didn’t have to work like crazy while studying (studying in Sweden is quite different compared to other countries – tuition is free, we get money every month from the government, the student loans have really low interest rates).

Graduation from Lund University

When I moved back to Stockholm at 24 I lived with my mum for a year first to write my thesis and then because I didn’t have a permanent contract at my job I couldn’t rent an apartment. This was also a frugal period since I didn’t know if I would have a job the month after and I lived at home. Although I didn’t actively track my money so a fair amount was still went to different purchases like food out, things, travel and so on.

When I started the blog about 1,5 years ago I started properly owning and loving being a weirdo. Before that I had kind of been trying to hide my weirdness (and failing) and trying to fit in somewhat. I wasn’t being true to myself and the knowledge that I was carrying about how we are treating the planet that we live on and especially how I was contributing to it. Because of that I was feeling quite a bit of despair, guilt and sorrow. Now that I am alined with my values of a Low Impact Life and a frugal lifestyle which have lead to a lot of changes in my life I feel lighter and more at peace with myself. What is even more awesome is that Mr LIL and I share the same values. He is also a frugal person that is worried about the planet. With the support of each other we are taking frugality/LIL to the next step in 2018.

Summary frugal January

January was fairly frugal. I did have two larger expenses that I knew were coming: a spa day with my mum that we gave each other for Christmas/birthday present and paying for our skitrip that’s coming up in March. These I have taken from my fluid savings account that I use for trips, activities and also as a buffer for expenses like dentist and so on. I also invited my girlfriends to a brunch to celebrate my birthday which was a out of the ordinary but other than that spending was low this month. I haven’t done anything special on the frugality front but been focusing on my new job which in turn has lead to not spending much money.

On the front of public transport and lunch connected to my new job I bought a public transport card but have been able to eat lunchboxes every day which I will continue to do! The lunches are the important one since a lunch in town costs a lot of money. The calcualtions: lunch costs around 100kr times 20 which is 2000kr a month. Minus of course around 30kr per homemade lunch box which is 600kr so that equals 1400kr a month saved!

Buying a public transport card cost me 860kr for a month and if I don’t have one I buy tickets that usually land on about 400kr a month so the card cost me an extra 460kr. I still have to fix my bike and it has been really cold and a lot of snow so it has been worth taking the underground so far. I’ll probably buy a card for next month too and then I’ll start biking in March.

Monthly budget

From tracking our money since August we have gotten a picture of our expenses and been able to get average spending on each post and also how much is possible for us to save. From that I have drawn up a general budget to have in mind during 2018. It’s going to be interesting to see if we can keep to it. Here are the percentages (the light green one is insurance 2,1%):

Savings

Since we want to able to feed our money making machine as much as possible we have a goal of 50% savings rate or more. With this budget we just hit 50 %. If we manage to save more that is great but our base is 50%. In saving we include mortage payment (minus the interest), saving for trips and saving in indexfunds.

Expenses

This category includes mine and Mr LIL own expenses and also our joint ones. For example going to the movies, hygiene products, medicine, activities, presents, stuff for our home, charities and so on.

Living expenses

In this category we include our monthly fee on the apartment, internet, electricity and interest on mortage.

Food & drink

As the heading hints all our food and alcohol that we buy is summed up here (eating out, which we don’t really do any more is included in our own expenses).

Dog

Pets are expensive and if we didn’t have a pet (especially a pet with stomach problems) we would be able to save a lot more. That said we adore the LIL wolf and she fits perfectly into our lives so we don’t regret getting her for one second! Doggy day care is the large part of this category and then food, treats and things that we have had to buy (although that was more when we first got her).

Student loans

Both me and Mr LIL have student loans to pay back. In Sweden universities are free and the loans come with amazing interest rates so most people take the student loan. Mr LIL and I both worked part time when studying but we also took the loans just so that we wouldn’t have to work like crazy to pay our bills and that we actually had some money saved up when we left university. We are paying down this loan slowly since it is better to invest our money instead.

Car

In this category expenses relating to our car is added up (except insurance) like repairs, parking, yearly inspection and tolls. Mr LIL gets milage compensation from his work and since our car is so fuel efficient that also covers our petrol that we use privately.

Insurance

Our joint insurances fall under this category: home, car and pet insurance.

So the plan is to try to keep to this budget so that we will be able to save a sizable part of our income. The thought behind this budget is that we will keep to this even if we get raises so that our savings rate will get higher over time while our expenses will stay the same. This way we’ll avoid lifestyle inflation.

Thoughts on money

I came across the Prairie Homestead blog not so long ago and read a post about money principles. I thought it was a really good post that touched on simple but core principles of how to think about money. I borrowed her principles and modified them slightly to fit my view on money:

1. AVOID UNNECESSARY DEBT LIKE THE PLAGUE

A part from a mortgage (possibly student debt in Sweden where the interest is really low) do not borrow any other money! Car loans and consumer debt should be avoided at all cost! Concering mortgages: just because you are eligable for a high loan doen’t mean you should buy a home at that price. Instead think of what is the smallest area that you can live comfortably in and not just getting a larger home just because you can get a loan for it.

2. BUILD AN EMERGENCY FUND

The emergency fund is money that you have readily available in a savings account for when things go sideways (which they do from time to time because life happens). The amount should be approximately 3-6 months expenses. This should be done before paying off your mortgage or investing in your money making machine (although if you have other debt that should be dealt with first becase that is an emergency!).

3. SQUASH THE COMPARISONS

Stop comparing your life to everything around you (Facebook, blogs, Pinterest, Instagram, advertising, peers and so on…). Figuring out what you want is the most important thing not comparing yourself to others. We don’t see the whole story though social media and buying more things to keep up with the Jonses will only make you broke and not happy.

4. EMBRACE HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

You don’t have to have it all at once. Instead build your dream one piece at a time and live within your means.

5. BE MINDFUL OF MONEY

Figure out what actually adds value to your life. Living frugally isn’t about deprivation, quite the opposite. It is about spending your money on the things that you value.

You can have anything you want, you just can’t have everything you want

6. ADOPT AN ABUNDANCE MINDSET

This is a very important principle. Most people have a scarcity mindset where what they have is “never enough”. This leads to dissatisfaction and a lack of gratitude for what you have which in turn impacts everything around you. I have been working hard to incorporate more gratitue and an abundance attitude into my life for the past year which makes for a much more enjoyable life.

 

January frugality

This post is part of my happiness project which you can read about here.

Happy New Year from the LIL family!

January has started which means that I’m revisiting and revising my frugality resolutions. On the 8th of January I start my new job and knowing that it takes a lot of energy to experience totally new things I am probably just going to come home after work and collapse on the sofa. This is good from a frugal point of view since I won’t have any energy to do stuff after work. There are unknowns of course and there are two things that I have given myself some time to figure out which will cost me some extra money:

Lunch time: if everyone eats out I have given myself a free card to eat out until I figure out how to eat my lunch box. I don’t want to start my job missing out on lunch time with my new colleagues (I am hoping that some of them eat lunch boxes so this won’t be an issue).

Biking to work: I am going to take public transport to work until I feel comfortable with biking there. I will test bike the way this week (after I fix my bikes gears that have broken) so I can figure out the route without being stressed about getting to work on time.

Other than those two points I will keep to my resolutions of not eating out, not buying anything new, borrowing books at the library or with my giftcard for Amazon that I recieved for Christmas, biking when I can and optimizing food shopping.

We started recording all our expenses and income in August so we’ve had a couple of months during 2017 to figure out how much we actually spend on average per month. From this I have put together a general budget to keep in mind (a more detailed post on this is coming). Now that 2018 has started me and Mr LIL are increasing our savings and working on keeping as close to the budget as we can. So January will be first month actually working towards a set budget and not just recording how the month turned out.

Taking control over my consumer impulses

Me and Mr LIL decided that because of environmental and minimalistic (and that we actually don’t need anything) reasons to skip physical presents this year  and instead asking for activity based presents. Although I have obviously gotten fewer and fewer presents over the years (last year my top present was a cast iron pot and frying pan) this year is the first year we have actively told people that we don’t want physical things. It feels really good to be alined with our values but I can still feel a twinge of my old self hanging around wanting to unwrap presents and feeling the excitement of getting new stuff.

It’s the same twinge that rears it’s head when walking by shops telling me that “I just want to see if I find something” or wanting to buy things as soon as I think of a need. Since I am on my year of not buying anything new I have taken time to actually register and stop my impluses concerning wanting and buying stuff. It is really hard at times, just last night was a great example. I have been checking second hand sites for a pair of ski poles lately but haven’t found any yet. The feeling of wanting to get them NOW overpowered me so I started looking at online stores and found some nice and cheap ski poles. I even got to the order button before my logical brain kicked in and closed down the web page. It is crazy how strong the feeling of wanting to buy new stuff is and it is for precise this reason that this year of not buying anything is so valuable. I need to learn how to be in more control of what I buy and not just following my desires in the heat of the moment. Going back again to Navy SEAL Jocko Willinck’s quote:

By buying things I don’t really need I’m taking myself away from my long term goals which are so much more important to me than for example new ski poles. This year I will have to exercise my willpower and discipline but I hope that by the end of the year I will be stronger for it. That’s why getting no physical presents is also an excercise of discipline, registering that the want of new things is there but then learning to redirect my focus to my values instead and feeling content with what I have. Like going off sugar, it really sucks in the beginning and takes a lot of mental willpower and hard work but then you get used to the new normal and don’t think about it anymore. That’s where I want to be, having new mental pathways programmed so that my first instinct isn’t to buy something.

DIY face cream

Since I want to make more of my own natural beauty products I tried making my own face cream. I found a recipe on Pinterest that I wanted to try out, although I didn’t have enough aloe vera and used almond oil instead of jojoba oil so I didn’t follow it completely. You can check out the real recipe and amounts on The Prairie Homestead. Mine turned out sightly oiliy (which could be that I didn’t use the right amount of aleo vera) but it still sunk in to my skin after a bit and made it really soft so I consider it a success! If you keep it in the fridge it will last for around 4 months. Before I was buying organic face cream that was quite expensive so making my own will both save me money and give me the satisfaction of knowing exactly what I put on my skin.

The ingredients I used: coconut oil, almond oil, bees wax and aloe vera

the finished product!

Minimalist living

I read a book on minimalism I borrowed from the library called Prylbanta. It is written by a couple who’s blog I follow (Swedish): Minimalisterna. It was good but more written to people that want to start their journey towards minimalism. There wasn’t really any new content for me personally since I’ve already done a deep dive into minimalism earlier but it served as a reminder and revival of my minimalist thoughts.

What resonated most for me from the book was the part where they describe the fact that we have so many things to have our other things in. That it is quite crazy to go out and buy more stuff so that you can organize your existing stuff instead of evaluating if you really need all the things to start with. A lot of your living space is dedicated to things that hold other things, i.e. closets, dressers, sideboards, kitchen cabinets and drawers, bathroom cabinets, tv benches, cleaning cupboards, books shelves, hallway shelves, display cabinets, cellars, attics an so much more. The purpose of most furniture sold is to hold other things. How much of your living space is actually a passive storage space for your stuff? How much do you pay for this passive use of space? You can calculate this by roughly adding the space that your larger storage systems take together and then either looking at how much you pay per month for that space if you are renting or how much you payed for that space when you bought it. It gives the perspective that the cost for our stuff isn’t just tied to the purchasing price but also the space to store them. By minimizing our stuff we reduce the need for storage systems, which in turn reduces the need of living space, which in the end reduces one of the most costly expenses that we have in our lives: our living space.

Update leisure time

Since I was sick the first week into my five weeks of freedom (still coughing a bit) at the same time as LIL wolf has not been well the leisure category has been off to a slow start. Not feeling well and having a dog that we need to stay home for is not the recipe for success when it comes to social interaction. Therefore the focus has been on LIL wolf, my own interests and the blog so far. I have read two books and lots of blog posts, taken many long walks, started my latest puzzle and my newest project: growing herbs and lettuce indoors (more on that in a seperate post). I have also been writing blog posts and worked on my pages (check out About and Frugality to see what I’ve been up to).

The seedlings are coming along really well 🙂

On a frugal/minimalist side note me and Mr LIL have gone through our things and given away three bags of clothes and things to a second hand store and two bags to the textile recycling. I have also put up a pair of hiking pants that are too big, a sideboard and my old pair of skiis on Blocket (a Swedish second hand website) and I hope I willl be able to sell them this weekend.

Mr LILs new hairdresser

Mr LILs new hairdresser is… me! Since his hair grows quite quickly a fair amount of money goes to getting his hair cut every other month. In the spirit of frugality Mr LIL was very brave to let me loose on his hair with the clippers. I watched a couple of YouTube tutorials first to get some guidance although I was fairly nervous to say the least… But it went well and I managed to not accidentaly give him bald patches so now he can hold off going to the hairdresser for a while longer.

I am currently letting my hair grow out so I won’t be needing Mr LILs hairdressing services any time soon which is quite a relief since I think cutting my hair will be more of a challenge!

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